Wildlife Watch in 2017 by David Cummings
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    Barn Owl
    David Cummings

    David Cummings


    A monthly series for 2017 about the wonderful world of wildlife. Each month I hope to share with you some of my experiences of watching and filming wildlife across the world, as well as keeping you up to date with wildlife sightings in the Parish

    January - The Pit, Garden Visitors and Hockenhull Platts

    A Happy New Year to all our supporters, especially friends in Germany, Canada and New Zealand.


    The Pit at Little Heath was the source of great excitement in December when a pair of adult shoveller ducks and two juveniles visited. The shovel like beak of these ducks is the best identification, but the male also has a bottle green head, white breast and chestnut colouring on its flanks. This group were the first of this species to be recorded at the Pit, and displayed wonderfully for several days. They were still present on 20th December. A grey heron and cormorant, both fish eating species, can be seen daily diving for fish, or resting up in various areas of vegetation around the waters edge. Coot and moorhen can also be seen at The Pit in their fine winter plumage, and are probably preparing nest sites for next spring.

    •  Coot


    •  Cormorant fishing

      Cormorant fishing

    •  Grey Heron

      Grey Heron

    •  Shoveler


    •  Shoveler



    A mature red admiral butterfly was seen at Croft Close on 1st December, a very late date for this species. This species is migratory, but might have been hibernating nearby and was tempted out by the warm weather we experienced about then. There has been a slow build up in the number of starlings coming to our feeding station, and a much larger group seem to roost in trees near the canal between Rowton and Christleton. We have had regular fights between three male blackbirds, all disputing territory, and several villagers have told me about a buzzard that is now coming regularly into their gardens. Buzzards didn’t exist in Cheshire 40years ago, but can now be seen everywhere. A young fox was seen wandering around the area of the Primary School at 11.30am on December 18th. This often happened in the late 70’s when foxes had a den in scrubland behind the Ring O Bells, and both adults and cubs would play on the new Primary School field.

    •  Red Admiral

      Red Admiral

    •  Blackbird male

      Blackbird male

    •  Grey Heron

      Grey Heron

    •  Buzzard



    The highlight of happenings at the Platts last month was the sighting of fresh otter spraints, a pool of jelly left by the female, and an otter slide into the Gowy. Water rail are present again this winter and can usually be heard by their strange pig like cry, rather than being seen. They are about the size of moorhens, but with prominent red bill. They are very secretive, as are common snipe. I’m delighted to report that twenty+ common snipe and a few rare jack snipe have been both roosting and displaying on the big meadow, taking advantage of the very wet conditions to hide between rushes and tall grasses. A curlew was also a welcome visitor in December and barn owls could be seen in the early morning and at dusk. A pair of tawny owls were also heard calling to each other at around 6.00am, with other reports of owls calling coming from the village, with little owls appearing near” The Park”. One of the best sights for me was on 18th Dec. when I counted at least 150 lapwings in the air over the new lake. Fifty years ago lapwings “ ruled the world” in terms of numbers seen in Cheshire with estimates of over 30,000 being present. Sadly the change of farming practices from dairy to arable in the country has caused a decline in the food source for such waders, and curlew, lapwing and golden plover numbers have all suffered huge declines. Three years ago however lapwing numbers along the Gowy corridor began to increase, and counts of 500+ lapwing have now been made. They can usually be spotted swirling or flapping in the air between Hockenhull Platts and Stamford Bridge. As I write just before Christmas there are still occasional visits by skeins of pink footed geese from Greenland, but in nothing like the numbers seen in November.

    •  Lapwing


    •  Lapwings


    •  Snipe


    •  Curlew


    •  Water


    •  Barn Owl

      Barn Owl

    Thanks to Joe O Hanlon for use of his superb picture of the barn owl, hunting over the meadows at Hockenhull.

    February - Big Garden Bird Watch

    As far as I can tell the highlight of the big garden bird watch in the village this year has been the visit to several bird tables of some delightful bullfinches. These colourful birds just stand out from the crowd, especially the male with his almost crimson chest. I’ve also heard that several green finches have been seen, together with several sightings of siskin. Siskins are smaller than greenfinches and have more speckles & stripes on their yellowy/green bodies. Excellent numbers of goldfinch seem to have been present, together with long tailed tits and starlings. Starlings can often be heard singing from the top of television aerials, clearly signalling their territories to other birds, and I’ve heard robins singing really loudly all over the village and particularly in the churchyard in the last week or so. Mistle thrushes are probably the most common bird in the churchyard, and their throaty thrrrr, thrrrr, thrrr, calls make them easy to identify just from sound itself. The mistle thrushes can be seen and heard feeding in the yew trees or occasionally sitting on the church roof or on a cross. Two great spotted woodpeckers were also seen regularly in the churchyard in January.

    The colourful male shoveller duck was still on the Pit at Little Heath at the end of January, and grey herons and cormorant can be seen daily. The presence of these birds, indicate that there are still plenty of fish to be found there. The Pit Group will be carrying out remedial work on the banks as soon as the plants in the new coir rolls have become established enough, and they can be transported from Surrey to Christleton. The two new fishing platforms made from recycled materials can then be put in place.

    A male golden eye duck was a really exciting visitor to Hockenhull in late January, together with a number of wigeon and teal. Two great crested grebes were seen displaying, and at least 5 little grebes or dabchick present. Ten redshank, more unusual visitors were seen flying along the river Gowy towards the end of January, and the very wet conditions on the meadows were ideal habitat for the 20 or so common snipe that have been present. The river was very full several times during the month, but hasn’t stopped signs and sightings of a family of otter. A mother with three cubs were seen early one morning, and the female also showed well on another occasion almost sitting up on her haunches and looking up at the camera. At least two tawny owls have been heard calling, and a barn owl was seen hunting over the meadow on the Tarvin side of the river. The occasional male stone chat has been seen, but the wintering thrushes have moved on, with just the occasional fieldfare calling in the lanes.
    Blue tits seem to have had a really good breeding season in 2016, as there are good numbers around, and regular sightings of minute goldcrests are being made. The goldcrest is smaller than a wren, and has a distinguishing gold flash or stripe on its forehead. Blackbirds are also staking out territories at present, but no sign of singing song thrushes yet. A flock of up to 500 lapwing, together with 2,000 gulls and an estimated 2,500 pink footed geese have been recorded flying over the area, and the pink feet in particular heard over Christleton village in the early morning and at night.

    •  Bullfinch - Male

      Bullfinch - Male

    •  Greenfinch


    •  Siskin - Male

      Siskin - Male

    •  Goldfinch


    •  Goldfinch and Coal Tit

      Goldfinch and Coal Tit

    •  Long Tailed Tit

      Long Tailed Tit

    •  Starlings


    •  Hockenhull Golden Eye

      Hockenhull Golden Eye

    •  Hockenhull Great Crested Grebe

      Hockenhull Great Crested Grebe

    •  Hockenhull Stonechat

      Hockenhull Stonechat

    •  Hockenhull Teal

      Hockenhull Teal

    •  Hockenhull Winter

      Hockenhull Winter

    •  The Church Mistle Thrush

      The Church Mistle Thrush

    •  The Church Robin

      The Church Robin

    •  The Pit Cormorant

      The Pit Cormorant

    •  The Pit Heron

      The Pit Heron

    •  The Pit Shoveller

      The Pit Shoveller

    1st February, 2017. There are now 4 males and five female shoveller ducks on Christleton Pit. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them whilst passing today.

    March - Storm Doris - Hockenhull Platts - Burton Mere's Wetland

    Latest news from the Village

    Storm Doris was the cause of some disruption to life in the parish, with storm force winds bringing a number of trees down across lanes, roads, buildings and the canal. Thankfully no one appears to have been hurt and the damage has largely been cleared as I write. Sometimes strange events happen because of extreme weather, and I’ve had a report that a bittern was seen at Christleton Pit during the storm. Sightings of bitterns in Christleton are very unlikely, but not impossible, with one sighting being made at Hockenhull in the 1970’s. I can’t confirm the recent sighting, but it is possible that a migrating bittern was blown off course and landed at the Pit for a break during its flight. No other sightings have been recorded in the area as far as I know. However the count of eight shoveller ducks at the Pit last month has been increased to twelve, with six males and six females being seen in mid February which is extraordinary.

    Both green and greater spotted woodpeckers have been seen in local gardens, and a buzzard regularly visits gardens in Pepper Street and Birch Heath Lane. Several can be seen flying low over the village on any day, and I’ve recorded both male and female sparrow hawks this last week, with the smaller male flying alongside my car at eye level for two hundred yards on Rake Lane. A number of friends have recorded both male and female black caps, whilst long tailed tits have also been seen in good numbers. One rare visitor to our garden feeders was a reed bunting, whilst groups of tiny green siskin have also been recorded locally. Several people have reported seeing jays in the village and there are still a number of fieldfare (wintering thrushes) about.

    Hockenhull Platts

    A large poplar came down over the passageway during the storm and cut off access to the reserve for a while, but with the area flooded the mud has largely put people off venturing down the path anyway. Barn and tawny owls have been seen and heard recently, and little owls seen along Hockenhull Lane for the first time for a number of years. There is still a flock of 500+ lapwing to be seen over the lake, and although the river level has been high signs of otters can be found. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust team has been carrying out a great deal of necessary conservation work in the wet meadow, with willows pollarded or removed, and tall grasses scythed down. The reed bed on the northwest corner of the reserve has been thinned out, and the northern ditch cleared so that water is flowing through to the Gowy. We’ve had more standing water on the big meadow than I’ve ever known, and this too is draining into the northern ditch. The wetness of the area has created an excellent habitat for wading birds and attracted a good number of common snipe, with up to twenty being recorded during the last month, together with at least one jack snipe. Several grey wagtails have also been seen in the area. Two ravens were calling in mid February creating a raucous noise in competition with at least five greater spotted woodpeckers drilling holes in the poplar trees. A lone nuthatch was also seen, and up to five goldcrests, and three treecreepers were frequent sightings.

    Burton Mere - Wetland

    A short visit to the RSPB Burton Mere’s Wetlands on Wirral yesterday was very fruitful with hundreds of waders, ducks, geese and swans present. Recent arrivals on the nearest island to the main hide were fourteen beautiful black & white avocets, no doubt preparing to have another successful breeding season on the reserve. Incidentally there were noticeably more shoveller ducks present than usual. The water levels across the reserve indicated how wet these last weeks have been, and newly dug drainage ditches were already full of water. Numbers of wintering swans have been down this year, no doubt partly to do with the erection of a huge field of solar panels creating a vast solar farm, but in litigation other fields nearby have been planted with crops to cater for the wintering wildlife for the next 25years. I saw 20+ Bewick and whooper swans yesterday, but I understand there have been counts of up to 150 during the winter months, so all is not lost.

    •  Avocet


    •  Black Cap Female

      Black Cap Female

    •  Black Cap

      Black Cap

    •  Great Spotted Woodpecker

      Great Spotted Woodpecker

    •  Green Woodpecker

      Green Woodpecker

    •  Hockenhull Storm Damage

      Hockenhull Storm Damage

    •  More Storm Damage

      More Storm Damage

    •  Long Tailed Tit

      Long Tailed Tit

    •  Reed Bunting

      Reed Bunting

    •  Shoveller


    •  Siskin Male

      Siskin Male

    •  Hockenhull Winter

      Hockenhull Winter

    •  Sparrohawk Geoff

      Sparrohawk Geoff

    •  Teal


    •  Wild Swans on the Dee

      Wild Swans on the Dee

    April - Springtime


    The first butterflies were seen in the village during sunny days in mid March, and at the beginning of April, with superb specimens of bright yellow male and green female brimstones, with several small tortoishell, peacock, comma and red admiral being seen. A single red kite was spotted flying west over the Old Glasshouse on Whitchurch Road, and there have been spectacular views of up to five buzzards soaring in the sky above the village. Several people have told me that they have now had buzzards in their garden, which is a relatively new happening, and a major development. Buzzards were almost non existent in the area thirty years ago.

    Spring Flowers

    The countryside has been a wonderful mass of colour in early spring and thousands of bright yellow celandines have glowed in the warm sun along Quarry Lane, and the first Lady smock and marsh marigolds appeared at Hockenhull.

    Spring Migration

    Chiff chaff have taken up residence in hedgerows along the canal and in the lanes at Hockenhull, with as many as ten males singing for territories. Black caps were heard at the beginning of April, and the first martins flew through on the 2nd. Skylarks have been heard in good numbers this year, which is wonderful news, as their aerobatic singing has been sadly missed for several years. Several pairs of lapwing have also taken up residence, and they too have been showing off their aerobatic skills with dramatic display songs and alarm calls.


    There have been signs of otters and water vole being active on the river Gowy, whilst two kingfishers have been seen regularly near the middle bridge. Mandarin ducks have been spotted twice looking for tree holes in the poplar plantation, as well as seen on the canal and at the Groves in Chester. The maximum number of shoveler seen at the Pit in Christleton was twelve, an amazing sight, as they had never been recorded there before. They now seem to have moved on to the lake at Hockenhull, with ten counted on 2nd April together with a shelduck and twenty tufted duck. There have been three great crested grebes, and two dabchick (little grebes). It is also hoped that the pair of mute swans will breed this year, as they are now mature enough to do so.

    Tawny owls have been heard calling even in daylight hours, and barn owls have been seen hunting at dawn, although there is no sign this year of the short eared owl which spent the spring here lat year.

    The Pit

    Conservation work on the Pit starts on the 4th April, with preparations being made for the installation of coir rolls to stabilise the banks on the Littleton Lane and Bricky lane sides. When these are put in place, two new fishing platforms made from recycled materials will be erected. This will then complete the work of stabilising the banks to prevent erosion started almost ten years ago. The work is being funded by grants from WREN, Cheshire West & Chester Council through Councillors Stuart & Margaret Parker , Christleton Parish Council and the Pit Group.

    •  Brimstone - Female

      Brimstone - Female

    •  Brimstone - male

      Brimstone - male

    •  Buzzard


    •  Buzzards - Croft Close

      Buzzards - Croft Close

    •  Red Kite

      Red Kite

    •  Shoveler


    •  Mandarin Ducks

      Mandarin Ducks

    •  Shelduck


    •  Celendine


    •  Lady's Smock

      Lady's Smock

    •  Marsh Marigold

      Marsh Marigold

    •  Reed Bunting

      Reed Bunting

    •  Black Cap

      Black Cap

    •  Chiff Chaff

      Chiff Chaff

    May - New Arrivals and Conservation

    The first butterflies emerged earlier than usual and in good numbers. Male and female brimstones were followed by small tortoishell, comma, holly blue, common blue, peacock and speckled wood. On days when the sun was warm, butterflies were very active, and by the end of the month good numbers of orange tip butterflies were on the wing at Hockenhull with several peacock and holly blues.

    The 8th April was a red letter day in some respects as a group of 150-200 swallows, sand and house martins were observed flying across the reserve and the new lake at Hockenhull. Then there was a complete absence for three weeks before the next group arrived. The initial group were very clearly migrants just stopping off for a feed on route, but its the second group that have returned to their old hunting grounds and nest sites in the parish. The Village Walking Group met at Walk Mill on Tuesday 25th when at least ten house martins arrived that morning to stake their claim on previous next sites under the eves of the mill.

    Several people have told me about parties of delightful yellow and green siskins visiting their bird tables, and other friends have been watching broods of great and blue tits through cameras in nest boxes. Several have been very successful, and numbers of these members of the titmouse family are as good as ever after such a comparatively mild winter.

    Kingfishers have also benefited from the milder winter weather and we saw three kingfishers on the wing on the river Gowy, together with two common sandpipers, a rare visitor these days a couple of weeks ago. Even more unusual was the sighting of four oystercatchers, a pair of goosanders, several shelduck, and two mandarin ducks which were seen prospecting for nest sites in trees on Hockenhull Lane and in the poplar plantation on the reserve.

    Grey herons are also very visible these days flying over the village and no doubt spending time feeding on the Pit. I hope you enjoy seeing the images of a mature grey heron that I took earlier in the month on the weir by the Groves in Chester.

    Sadly no swans have arrived back this spring following the demise of our old cob last Autumn, and I’ve also heard from a friend that one of last years cygnets CJC1 was killed flying into a power line near Brassey Green.

    At the Pit, mallards have been very successful and at least three broods of 8, 6, and 5 ducklings have been seen. Reports of over 16 ducklings with a single mum have been seen on the canal, but predation is very likely, so numbers will often drop dramatically overnight. We’ve also seen the extraordinary pairing of a Canada with a greylag goose at the Pit. They were clearly doing a mating display when I last saw them, but at the time of writing they have disappeared, to be replaced by a pair of Canada Geese. A baby moorhen was seen being fed by mum, but no sign of any baby coots yet.

    •  Swallow


    •  Sandmartins and Swallows

      Sandmartins and Swallows

    •  Sandmartins


    •  Hollyblue


    •  Brimstone


    •  Orange Tip

      Orange Tip

    •  Shelduck


    •  Peacock


    •  Speckled Wood

      Speckled Wood

    •  Siskin


    •  Siskin


    •  Robin


    •  Mallards


    • Mallards on the Pit

    • Moorhen

    •  Grey Heron

      Grey Heron

    •  Grey Heron

      Grey Heron

    •  Canada and Greylag Goose

      Canada and Greylag Goose

    Conservation in action at Christleton Pit

    During the last month Christleton Pit Group have been busy repairing the banks of the Pit on the Bricky Lane and Little Heath road side, with pre prepared coir rolls containing native British plants. This work is well under way as I write, and two new fishing platforms made from re cycled materials will be appearing on the Bricky Lane side in the near future. The Parish Council has written a very complimentary letter thanking the group for their continuing efforts to conserve the area for the benefit of the community, and many individual members of the village have also expressed their thanks. The Pit Group would be delighted to see any prospective new members at any of their sessions. The next three being on;

    Saturday 6th May, Wednesday 10th May and Saturday 13th May. We meet between 9.30 -11.30am by the Dixons Houses.

    •  Strengthening Pit bankside, Christleton

    •  Conservation in Christleton

    •  New rolls for Christleton Pit

    •  Christleton Pit

    •  Working at Christleton Pit

    •  Conservation at Christleton Pit

    •  Conservation at Christleton Pit

    •  Conservation at Christleton Pit

    •  Working on Christleton Pit

    June - Cranes and Swans

    Last month Beryl and I planned a visit to both Slimbridge Wildlife and Wetland Trust Reserve and Wells Cathedral as part of a journey south to search for our family history. The visit to Slimbridge took place early on a really warm spring day, and whilst the waterfowl sightings of swans and ducks were wonderful, we also heard the most superb bird song, with cetti’s, sedge and reed warblers, lesser and common whitethroats in full song. A pair of superbly coloured kingfishers darted in and out of their nest site along a river bank, whilst suddenly from out of the blue in the sky above our heads, came three colourful cranes. Cranes were re introduced to the West Country several years ago, with staff at Slimbridge being heavily involved, and in the last two years, nesting attempts have been made. I think it is only a matter of time before successful breeding takes place, after an absence of over 400years. We had wonderful views of the cranes flying out towards the Severn estuary, seeing them feeding in the big lagoon, as well as seeing them circle majestically over the reserve grounds. There was also a pair in one of the centre’s pens, performing a dramatic courtship display, with some extraordinary bouncing flights and dances. I hope that this dramatic display will eventually lead to egg laying and breeding. It certainly deserved to.

    We also had the opportunity to take a canoe safari and gently paddle through the grounds, to get a closer look at the warblers in the reed beds, and had even better views of the cranes as they floated and circled in the warm air currents overhead, before landing nearby in the centre grounds. I hope the pictures accompanying this article will give you a good impression of these magnificent long legged, long necked birds that are now very much part of the scene, at the WWT reserve at Slimbridge and on the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury.

    Our visit to the Bishops Palace adjacent to Wells Cathedral co-incided with the birth of eight healthy cygnets to the current resident pair of mute swans. Swans are said to ring a bell in the wall at the Bishops Palace when they want food. It seems that this tradition goes back hundreds of years, and I remember first hearing the story back in the 1950s when I visited the Cathedral on a school trip. There are a number of videos on U tube illustrating this fascinating story, but I can’t image the swan family ever needing more food as there was an enormous supply of plants and weeds in the moat surrounding the Palace for them to forage on. You can see the efforts the adults were making to bring the food to the surface in the accompanying pictures. These cygnets will grow to adult size in just over four months, and then be chased off the site by their parents. The question I keep asking myself is. “ How is the knowledge of ringing the bell for food passed on to each new generation of swans”. It’s been going on for so long, tens of different pairs of swans must have been involved. Just how do they do it?

    •  Cranes


    •  Cranes


    •  Cranes


    •  Crane


    •  Crane


    •  Cranes


    •  Cranes


    •  Cranes


    •  Cranes


    •  Wells Cathedral

      Wells Cathedral

    •  Swans


    •  Swan


    •  Swan and cygnets

      Swan and cygnets

    •  Swans with cygnets

      Swans with cygnets

    •  Cygnet


    July - A Good Month for News

    Wonderful news from Hockenhull Platts.

    This has been an outstanding breeding season for birds at Hockenhull. A wide range of small birds, including blackcaps, chiff chaff, willow, reed and sedge warblers, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and reed buntings have done brilliantly, and many are now starting second clutches. Lapwing have bred for the first time for many years, and even two noisy pairs of oystercatchers have had a successful breeding season, with four young being seen. Quite extraordinary was the sound of a song thrush mimicking the call of the oystercatcher, with a distinct “kleep, kleep, kleep” sound being heard from the top of a song post.

    The highlight which can now be told, was the successful breeding by a pair of kingfishers, who built a nest hole in a precarious bank site downstream of the middle bridge. Lots of people saw them, but didn’t witness the drama of the bank below the nest site collapsing, leaving the adults lost as just how to get food to their nestlings. Several times we watched as they tried to get to the hole, and were very relieved the next morning to find they had burrowed a new entrance into the nest chamber. Brilliant! Although no one witnessed their emergence, two young were seen a few days later close to the spot, and the adults have since been seen up river towards Walk Mill.

    It has also been a very successful season for damselflies, with large numbers of common, and blue tailed damselflies, large red, and hundreds of the colourful banded agrion damselflies as seen in the accompanying pictures. A four spotted chaser was the first dragonfly seen, flying out and hunting over the big meadow, and several southern and brown hawkers have now emerged. Last Sunday 1st July saw the best show of butterflies there for many years with at least 10 commas, several red admirals, small tortoishells, gatekeepers, meadow browns and a ringlet all being seen in the same area of brambles on the Christleton side of the middle bridge. It was a wonderful sight to see, and I was able to take a number of pictures to add to our collection. The picture of the marbled white is the image of my butterfly summer to date, the first I’ve seen for many years, however, it was not taken in Christleton.

    Village News

    Bullfinches are back. These colourful finches have been seen in several gardens in the village and at Littleton. The accompanying picture shows the distinct difference between the sexes, the male with his very colourful appearance, all deep pink and black, the female a more sedate brown and black. Several noisy great spotted woodpeckers have graced bird tables, and I spotted a little owl on two occasions flying across Birch Heath Lane. Following the heavy rain in the last week of June, warm sunshine brought out a bright yellow brimstone butterfly, and several small tortoishell, holly blue, red admiral and comma butterflies near the Alms Houses. Work on the Pit continues and we were surprised on several occasions by the leaping of what appeared to be a huge gold coloured carp from under the water. Could these sightings be of the cross breeding goldfish/grass carp which we know exists, as specimens were caught but escaped on the two occasions that the Pit was dredged, and hundreds of large fish, all varieties of carp, removed. A mature grey heron has also made his home there, and can be seen most days fishing towards the Bricky Lane side, so there are clearly lots of small fish too. Chiff chaff are calling very loudly again in Plough Lane, and a song thrush was heard exercising his lungs near the Children’s Play Area at Little Heath. Willow warblers which have been absent from the parish for a number of years are still being heard along the canal towpath, an indication that perhaps they have bred this season. Buzzards are calling and flying over the village every day now, and are even coming down into gardens, looking for their prey. At least one holly blue has emerged, and the beautiful red valerian in the churchyard is attracting lots of small tortoishell butterflies.

    Advance Notice

    Saturday 7th October. 7.00pm
    Christleton Parish Hall.
    The History of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust Reserve at Hockenhull Platts
    Tickets £6 (Including refreshments available soon from David 332410)
    The raffle will include a framed picture of an Otter taken at Hockenhull.

    •  Little Owl

      Little Owl

    •  Large Red Damselflies Mating Mating

      Large Red Damselflies Mating Mating

    •  Banded Damselfly Male

      Banded Damselfly Male

    •  Branded Damselfly Female

      Branded Damselfly Female

    •  Gatekeeper


    •  Meadow Brown Butterfly

      Meadow Brown Butterfly

    •  Ringlet Butterfly

      Ringlet Butterfly

    •  Comma Butterfly

      Comma Butterfly

    •  Red Admiral Butterfly

      Red Admiral Butterfly

    •  Marbled White Butterfly

      Marbled White Butterfly

    •  Kingfisher


    •  Lapwing


    •  Oystercatcher


    •  Bullfinches


    •  Brown Hare

      Brown Hare

    •  Spotted Chaser

      Spotted Chaser

    •  Common Blue Damselfly

      Common Blue Damselfly

    •  Common Blues Mating

      Common Blues Mating

    August - A Great Month for Butterflies, Dragon and Damselflies

    July was one of the most extraordinary months for sightings of butterflies, dragon and damselflies at Hockenhull Platts ever. I’m sure many of you will have completed the Butterfly Conservation Society “Great Butterfly Count”, a 15 minute study of a local site, garden, park, canal towpath etc. I completed a better than average count for the garden at Croft Close and after sending in the details to B.C.S. was encouraged to send in details of sightings at another site. I decided to choose a warm afternoon slot, and combined the survey with another I carry out regularly for the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. I followed a set route that we use for these records, and listed as accurately as possible all the butterflies, damsel & dragonflies I saw. The walk took far longer than the 15minutes required of the B.C.S. survey as there was so much to see, but the records I obtained were quite remarkable. I’m sure that this is the best list I have obtained in one session in all the years of recording at Hockenhull.

    I have illustrated this article with some of the images taken on the reserve this year, with just one or two from previous years. Sadly the number of insects is already falling following the strong winds and rain of early August, and numbers of species and sightings are well down on the above list, but there are still quite a number of dragonflies about and August/September is a good time to spot the brown and southern hawkers and the common darter. I will review & list all the sightings for the year in a later month.

    The list for that afternoon included;
    gatekeeper 25
    speckled wood  3
    small white 10+
    green veined white 1
    large white 20+
    holly blue 1
    common blue 2
    comma 15+
    peacock 20+
    meadow brown 25+
    red admiral 6

    Dragon & Damselflies.
    southern hawker 4
    brown hawker 7
    common darter 20+
    banded demoiselle 75
    blue tailed damselfly 20+
    Common blue damselfly 40+
    large red damselfly 2

    •  The vegetation in wet meadow 2017

      The vegetation in wet meadow 2017

    •  4 Spotted Chaser

      4 Spotted Chaser

    •  Common Blue Damselfly

      Common Blue Damselfly

    •  Common Blue Damselflies mating

      Common Blue Damselflies mating

    •  Blue Tailed Damselfly

      Blue Tailed Damselfly

    •  Red Damselfly

      Red Damselfly

    •  Red Damselfly mating

      Red Damselfly mating

    •  Red Admiral

      Red Admiral

    •  Common Blue

      Common Blue

    •  Blueholly


    •  Comma


    •  Brown Hawker

      Brown Hawker

    •  Peacock


    •  Small Skipper

      Small Skipper

    •  Speckled Wood

      Speckled Wood

    •  Meadow Brown

      Meadow Brown

    •  Gatekeeper


    •  Ringlet


    •  Small White

      Small White

    •  Southern Hawker

      Southern Hawker

    •  Common Darter

      Common Darter

    •  Common Darter f.

      Common Darter f.

    •  Banded Agrion

      Banded Agrion

    •  Banded Agrion m.

      Banded Agrion m.

    •  Banded Agrion f,

      Banded Agrion f,

    September - Look Up

    The theme for the September Wildlife Watch article must be “look up”! Every day we have the cries of young buzzards in the skies all around the parish. There must be at least six nest sites in the area, and we have two within 1000m of Croft Close. The buzzard cries are so loud, as they seem to argue with each other overhead, and some adult birds come to within a few metres of our rooftop as they perhaps try to drive youngsters away. At a nest site near Hockenhull Platts I have seen five birds in the air together, all calling from the trees, or circling on thermals rising above the lake. Red kites have also been seen in the skies above us, with one over the Platts on August 12th and another near Waverton Station on August 19th.

    Just a few weeks ago Beryl and I were on holiday in The French Alps and I have included a few of the images I took from our base at Chamonix, including a magical day on Aguille du Midi, where we stood in shirtsleeves at 12,200ft watching Alpine Chough call to each other whirling around the sky below Mont Blanc. Last week we saw chough in Anglesey and I have put both in this sequence so you can see the difference, Alpine chough have yellow bills and yellow legs, and the choughs in the UK, red bills and red legs. I have also included a picture of a black kite, which was the most common bird of prey around Lake Geneva, to compare with the red kites we see in the UK.

    The views from the top of Aguille du Midi were spectacular. We could see the mountains of Italy, France and Switzerland all around us for what appeared to be hundreds of miles. I guess it probably wasn’t that far, but we did have a superb view of the triangular shaped Matterhorn in Switzerland some 80miles away. What was extraordinary at that height is that breathing was quite a challenge, and although we were feeling quite relaxed in the warm sunshine, there were 4ft long stalactites of ice hanging from the ski station roof, just below where we were standing. Hundreds of fully equipped mountaineers or ski mountaineers were leaving the Ski Station at 12,200ft through an ice cave, to climb carefully down onto the curved ridge below the ski station. Many could then be seen plummeting down the slopes on their skis to the glacier below, whilst others roped up in groups of three or four with ice axes in full use, were trekking beyond the ridge and taking the long steady climb to the glistening white domed summit of Mont Blanc above us. This was the most amazing experience for us, and we were so privileged to be able to see the highest mountains of the Alps, and almost the whole of Western Europe spread out beneath us on such a crystal clear day.

    We completed this magical day by taking the cable car down to the intermediate ski station at 7,000ft, and trekked across a narrow footpath, the Grand Balcon Nord towards the next valley, and the hamlet of Montenvers and the famous Mer de Glace glacier. As we ambled across this path we had really good close up views of alpine chough, as they were eager to sample any food we could spare. If we were careful and waited patiently, we were often able to get glimpses of a number of marmots. These beautiful golden brown and quite secretive animals about the size of a badger were living amongst the jagged rock outcrops overlooking our path. They also seemed to be enjoying the warm sun and we were pleased to get really good views of them. Having spent an hour or so along this delightful path, we found that conditions were suddenly becoming quite tricky underfoot, with the warm sun melting the occasional deep lying pockets of snow, so we headed back towards the ski station at Plan de A’Guille. 30 minutes later by complete chance we reached an area of newly emerged meadow grass, and there tucked down close to the ground, we saw some superb newly emerged deep blue mountain gentians, of both the common and the tubular varieties. This was just the icing on the cake, and we enjoyed a well earned ice cream sitting on the terrace in the sun waiting for the next cable car down to Chamonix. I hope you enjoy seeing these images.

    •  Alpine Chough

      Alpine Chough

    •  Chough at South Stack

      Chough at South Stack

    •  Chough


    •  Chough in flight

      Chough in flight

    •  Black Kite

      Black Kite

    •  Red Kite

      Red Kite

    •  Buzzard


    •  Buzzards at Hockenhull

      Buzzards at Hockenhull

    •  Gentian


    •  Tubular Gentian

      Tubular Gentian

    •  Common Gentian

      Common Gentian

    •  Marmots


    •  Marmot


    •  Aguille du Midi

      Aguille du Midi

    •  Aguille du Midi

      Aguille du Midi

    •  French Alps

      French Alps

    October - Autumn Fungi

    This is the best time of year to see lots of varieties of fungi, and I was reminded of that whilst driving along Littleton Lane past the Pit. One of the trees on the left hand side of the road has a magnificent specimen of a “chicken of the woods” fungus. This is quite a common fungus that grows on many kinds of deciduous trees, and is edible. I’ve included two other images of this type, one much more sulphurous. It is from the family of bracket fungi which are very common in woodland especially on silver birch.
    There have been several giant puff balls growing near the back of the Pit this autumn, but nothing like the one seen held by youngsters from the Primary School in the late 1970’s. This was found in a garden near to the Ring O Bells, and is a magnificent specimen. Giant puffballs are also said to be edible when they are young and fresh.

    One of my favourite varieties is the Shaggy inkcap, which can be seen along the canal bank, meadows, gardens and on many other sites. When young and its gills are white, it is said to be edible. When the gills turn black it resembles a black ink and the mushroom disintegrates rapidly and is not edible.

    The specimens that are definitely not to be eaten are the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria. They can be found in coniferous and deciduous woods and are so attractive they are regularly shown as attractive features in children’s books. However they should not be touched, as the poison cannot be removed by cooking or peeling the skin. One of the pictures was taken in a local garden, the other in woodland, and I’ve also included another variety with an orange skin.

    Fungi are classified in three groups, “mycorrhizal fungi” which from a symbiotic relationship with a tree or plant, “sapro-phytic fungi” that live on dead matter, and “parasitic fungi” which attacks plants and kills them. I love finding the different and unusual forms and photographing them, but apart from field mushrooms have never tried to eat any of them. I have included some of my favourite fungi pictures with this article and I hope you enjoy them. The best sites locally are Delemere Forest or Bickerton Hill, but fungi turn up in all sorts of unexpected places, so keep your eyes open in the next month or so.

    Field Guide to Mushrooms and other Fungi of Britain & Europe.
    Published by New Holland Publishers

    •  Bolete


    •  Bolete


    •  Chicken in the Wood

      Chicken in the Wood

    •  Chicken in the Wood

      Chicken in the Wood

    •  Chicken in the Wood

      Chicken in the Wood

    •  Field Mushroom

      Field Mushroom

    •  Fly Agaric

      Fly Agaric

    •  Fly Agaric

      Fly Agaric

    •  Gian Puiff Ball found by the Children

      Gian Puiff Ball found by the Children

    •  Orange Coloured Fly Agaric

      Orange Coloured Fly Agaric

    •  Parasol


    •  Parasol


    •  Rosy Earthstar

      Rosy Earthstar

    •  Scarlet Elf Cup

      Scarlet Elf Cup

    •  Shaggy Scalycap

      Shaggy Scalycap

    •  Sooty Ink Cap

      Sooty Ink Cap

    •  Turkeytail Bracket

      Turkeytail Bracket

    Wildlife Watch in 2017 by David Cummings